'Secularism' is overused, misused term in India, says US scholar

'Secularism' has been overused, misused

'Secularism' is overused, misused term in India, says US scholar

George Alfred James, Bhagawan Adinatha Professor of Jain Studies, University of North Texas, the USA, an expert in South Asian religions, says the term 'secularism' has been overused and is being misused.

For co-existence of various religions in India, 'pluralism' would be the apt term, Prof James told DH. He was on a visit to Shravanabelagola, in Hassan district, in view of the upcoming Mahamastakabhisheka.

Stating that he is aware of the controversies surrounding the term 'secular' in the Indian context, Prof James said his comments would not go down well with a section of the people. "From my study and research into the religions of the South Asia, especially in the Indian sub-continent, I am sure that many religions have co-existed in India, despite the differences and frictions on occasions," he said.

"Compared to most of the countries in the world, which claim to be progressive, India has a rich heritage. Indian heritage in spirituality, religion, culture, tradition and science is noteworthy. Non-violence has been the main essence of all the religions, which have their origin in the sub-continent. Among them, Jainism is of the extreme form. Even though non-violence is an element in all religions across the world, the degree of it in the Indian religions is more. In these religions, while religion is a path of self-realisation, non-violence is the means," said Prof James.

"Jainism was a result of the opposition to the evolution of practices in the Sanathana Dharma. When animal slaughter became rampant, for various purposes, those who vehemently opposed it followed Jainism. Jains followed strict vegetarian diet. Since then, many religions have been founded on the Indian soil. India has also seen the advent of other religions. The Indian society has been pluralistic since centuries, as far we can study, on the basis of evidence available," he said.

"The definition of secularism is actually the 'principle of separation of the state from religious institutions'. It has nothing to do with tolerance or co-existence. In India, the state is actually involved with the religious and spiritual institutions, in various ways. In fact, the government is managing most of the institutions. If the state intends to promote tolerance among the religions and co-existence, the appropriate term should be 'pluralism'," he said.

"Religion is nothing bad, that one should defy. Religion is a recognition that I exist, but I exist in a community with others. So, one need not be ashamed to identify with one's religion," Prof James added.

 

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry